WASHINGTON, DC, FEBRUARY 4, 2008 - President Bush today proposed cuts to emergency services for homeless programs as part of his proposed Fiscal Year 2009 budget. Homeless advocates criticized the President's proposal and called on Congress to provide additional funding for homeless programs and mainstream programs that help prevent homelessness.
President Bush proposed cutting the federal McKinney-Vento Emergency Food and Shelter (EFS) program by $53 million, or a little more than a third of the program's Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 funding. The EFS program, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides funding for emergency shelter, eviction prevention, and emergency food assistance.
The President's FY09 Budget Request, does propose increasing funding for another homeless assistance program, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. However, the proposed $49 million increase for these programs would be less than the cut to the EFS program.
"This is not the time to cut emergency services or homeless prevention programs," said Maria Foscarinis, founder and Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. "We need to ensure more people do not become homeless and we need to ensure we can meet basic requests for food and shelter."
According to data released by HUD last year as part of its Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, over 40% of the homeless population was living unsheltered on any given night in 2005.
In addition to the cut to the EFS program, the President also proposed cuts to a number of programs that provide housing or services that help to prevent homelessness. The Section 202 program for elderly persons would lose approximately $196 million and housing for persons with disabilities would be cut by $78 million. Public housing and Community Development Block Grants would also be cut.
Other federal agency budgets were no better. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program would be cut by $570 million, a 22% cut from FY08 levels. Households that have their utilities cut off are more likely than other households to end up homelessness. The President also proposed a $6 million increase for a program that provides outreach and case management for homeless persons with mental illness, yet cut $ 201 million from mental health and substance abuse treatment and prevention programs funded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
"In 2002, the President made a commitment to end chronic homelessness,," said Foscarinis. "Now he is proposing cuts to the very housing and service programs that prevent homelessness. We are calling on Congress to do what is truly needed - provide adequate funding to prevent and end homelessness once and for all."
NLCHP is the only national legal advocacy organization solely dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. Through impact litigation, policy advocacy, and public education the organization addresses the root causes of homelessness at the local, state, and national levels.